The two new Penticton Vees are expected to be on the team roster for Saturday’s B.C. Hockey League home opener at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
The two 20-year-olds, Brendan Harrogate (free agent) from the Ontario Hockey League and Andre Ghantous from the BCHL Alberni Valley Bulldogs, were acquired in a 24-hour period this week.
Both were in uniform for the Thursday afternoon practice at Memorial Arena.
According to Vees president and head coach Fred Harbinson, word that injuries to star forwards Massimo Rizzo and Cassidy Bowes will likely keep the pair out of action for a few more weeks, necessitated the signings.
“So we said we need to get some experience in here sooner than later,” said Harbinson, whose team has two wins and three losses going into Friday’s game in Merritt against the Centennials.
“Experience. Being the youngest team in the league, we knew all along we wanted to bring age to our group. Obviously, when you got Bowes, who’s 19, out of the lineup and Rizzo, even though he’s only 17, he’s one of the elite players in the league, it gets magnified.”
Ghantous, according to his new coach, is a “proven commodity” and when he became available the Vees jumped at the chance to get him, trading away Ryan Miotto and Henri Schreifels in the deal.
“He’s a great two-way player, he’s put up big numbers,” said Harbinson.
“He had a point a game in the playoffs. Unfortunately, he had a point a game against us in the playoffs.”
Ghantous, from Glendale, Calif., spent the past two seasons in the Interior Division with the Trail Smoke Eaters.
Last season, the 5’9”, 170-pound forward scored 19 goals with 25 assists and played in all 58 games.
He took his game to another level in the post season registering 14 points in 15 games as the Smoke Eaters reached the Interior Division final.
He scored two goals and six assists and helped the Smoke Eaters defeat the Vees in seven games in the second round.
Acquiring him was also important, according to the coach, because he might otherwise have ended up in another Interior Division jersey, possibly Vernon or Wenatchee.
About Harrogate, Harbinson said: “He plays centre and wing, watching his game reminds me of Connor Chartier awhile back (2014-15) who helped our team win the championship. He played with Mississauga when they went to the OHL final and the Oshawa Generals, both very good hockey teams.”
The 6’1”, 187-pound forward scored 10 goals with 15 assists in 54 games last year between the two teams after being moved from Mississauga to Oshawa.
In total, Harrogate played 156 OHL games over the past three years scoring 29 goals with 28 assists.
“I think both guys are going to give us some more leadership on the front end of our team,” said Harbinson.
“It calms everything else down, it helps our young guys learn more than just from your coach. You need your peers to have an understanding of what it takes.”
The Vees travel to Merritt Friday to take on the Centennials who are tied with two other teams (Wenatchee and West Kelowna) for first in the Interior Division with eight points heading into the weekend schedule.
The Vees and Bulldogs, who have a two-win, four-loss record heading into their game against Trail Friday, face off at 6 p.m. at the SOEC.
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Mark Brett | Reporter
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